Early in my business career I was a sales representative for an industrial chemical company. My background was in marketing, not chemistry, so when customers would ask me a technical question, I quickly learned the value of this sentence: “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.” A phone call away were people in the company lab who, although they were in a distant state and I’d never met them, willingly answered any question I put to them. It gave me a wonderful confidence that I could effectively do my job.
As Christmas approached, my heart overflowed with gratitude for what the folks in the lab had enabled me to do as a fledgling sales rep. I was moved to send them a small box of my favorite candy. It wasn’t an expensive gift, but the candy, and the note I included, was a sincere expression of my appreciation.
The response I received from the lab read in part, “Your thoughtfulness was appreciated. In fact, you’re the only sales person that sent us anything this Christmas. For that we really thank you.”
I was stunned. The company employed dozens of sales reps located all over the country.
I learned a valuable lesson from that: Appreciate what another does for you, and be sure to tangibly show them. We never know how significant a simple act of gratitude can be for another. In fact, the appreciative response from the lab staff was actually a gift in return as it touched me so deeply that I’ve kept their letter all of these years as a reminder of the importance of heartfelt gratitude.
Interestingly, the word “gratitude” is not found in the Bible. But the word “praise” is. And isn’t that what gratitude fundamentally stems from – praise? For eons people have naturally rejoiced and praised God whenever the heart overflowed with gratitude for some kind of goodness. This sentiment is repeated in various ways in the ancient writings: “Praise ye the Lord. I will praise the Lord with my whole heart” (Psalms 111:1).
Isn’t it just as natural to praise the expression of God’s love and goodness that we see evidenced in those individuals we have contact with? When we praise the good we find in another, we’re actually acknowledging how God is expressing Himself. Why would we praise God and not praise His creation – His expression, animation, and evidence?
The greatest praise of all is seen when our gratitude compels us to action, whether it be the simplicity of a hearty thank-you, reciprocating such kindness, or paying it forward by responding to another. Ideally, praise stirs us to do something, to allow inspiration to move us to sincere action that blesses ourselves and others. When gratitude is heartfelt, it lasts and shines in action of our own.
The founder of The Christian Science Monitor, Mary Baker Eddy, offers this no-nonsense counsel along that line: “Gratitude is much more than a verbal expression of thanks. Action expresses more gratitude than speech” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 3).
We don’t have to wait for a special holiday to greet one another with affection and appreciation. Throughout the year there are opportunities galore to notice and respond to the efforts of others. Appreciation itself is actually a gift just as I discovered years ago when those lab techs impressed me with how valuable appreciation can be. Their acknowledgment of that small gift really made a difference in my life. It left an enduring call to action to express appreciation as often as I can.